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Need a GOOD Lawyer?
Washington Is Full of Legal Hazards--and Lawyers for Every Problem. Here are the 75 Best. By Kim Eisler
Comments () | Published April 1, 2002

Another day in Washington:

A tough-looking immigration officer at the front door is asking to check the papers of your domestic help. You've gotten a call from a Washington Post reporter about a check you wrote that somehow ended up in Osama bin Laden's Swiss bank account. And there's an IRS audit notice in the mailbox--did someone find out about your $3,500 slot-machine win in Atlantic City? That won't look good in the custody fight over the kids.

In Washington more than any other city in the world, ordinary people are exposed to extraordinary legal hazards. Here in the land of sweeping congressional inquiries, of prosecutors looking to make a name for themselves, of multiple levels of law enforcement--here in the land of lawyers, lawyers, lawyers--the innocent are as easily enmeshed in legal wrangling as the guilty.

In the part of the $60-million investigation dealing with Bill Clinton's "sexcapades," only one person went to trial. It wasn't Monica or anyone at the White House. It was Julie Hiatt Steele, a housewife who overheard a conversation relating to Clinton's relationship with Kathleen Willey. When Steele's recollection didn't jibe with what Willey told special prosecutor Kenneth Starr, Steele was indicted and tried for perjury. She was not convicted, but the case illustrates what lawyers refer to as "collateral damage," when everyday people are dragged into perilous legal situations despite their having only a tangential relationship to any wrongdoing.

One of the methods by which the government squeezes peripheral figures is through tax audits and investigations. Tax expert Cono Namorato says he has represented dozens of people swept into investigations to encourage their cooperation.

"Nobody can afford to defend himself against the Justice Department or the IRS," he says. "So the target has no choice but to tell them what they want, just to stop the flow of legal bills."

The current focus on security has given prosecutors leeway to use tactics that would not have been tolerated two decades ago. And when a case like Enron arrives on the scene, hardly anyone is safe. No matter how far down the ladder you might be at Arthur Andersen or Vinson & Elkins or anyplace that did business with Enron, there's a chance that a prosecutor or congressional committee is going to find your name and do a quick search of your assets, liabilities, and tax payments. The same thing happened to foreign-born residents in the wake of the World Trade Center attack.

Lawyers are rarely lovable. But for every lawyer threatening to ruin your life with a lawsuit, divorce action, or government investigation, there is one who can help you. Washington has more lawyers per capita than any other city--some 90,000 in the metro area. Other sectors of our economy may rise or fall, but lawyers march on. A profession that thrives on misfortune and conflict suffers only in times of peace, love, and harmony.

Marna Tucker, Washington's mistress of divorce law, notes the irony: In the wake of September 11, commentators suggested that families were drawing closer together. Tucker saw it differently. In a world that seemed near collapse, the number of people calling to get rid of their spouses--usually to clear the way to live with someone else--jumped.

Scan the records of luxury-home sales. Comb the applications at top-tier private schools. See who's buying the million dollars' worth of steak sold at the Palm every month. Lawyers, lawyers, lawyers.

HERE ARE WASHINGTON'S 75 BEST. THEY WERE SELECTed on the basis of interviews with lawyers, judges, and clients. We have picked people from different legal specialties, some of which the average person might not interact with--the top Supreme Court litigators, for example. But we have not included lawyers who, though they might be expert, have arcane specialties. The lawyers listed are all available for hire, and most have a winning track record in Washington-area courts, whether on the plaintiff or defense side and in both civil and criminal matters.

In some cases, where a very successful attorney works closely with a partner, the second attorney is named in the same listing. For example, Barry Simon of Williams & Connolly is one of the nation's finest defense lawyers, but he works so often with partner Brendan Sullivan that he is listed with Sullivan.

These lawyers are the best at what they do.

1. MICHELE ROBERTS

Shea & Gardner

MICHELE ROBERTS MAY NOT HAVE REPRESENTED ANY presidents, but she's built a reputation as the finest pure trial lawyer in Washington--magic with juries, loved by judges, feared by opposing counsel. For years she has been an independent operator, though big firms have used her as a secret weapon, bringing her in at the 11th hour to argue their cases before a jury. The simple act of hiring her often results in settlement. The uptown bar has a phrase for it: "Roberts to the rescue." Among the recently rescued was Charles Bakaly, an associate of Kenneth Starr's charged with improperly leaking confidential documents. Thanks to Roberts, he was exonerated at trial.

Roberts is a native of the Bronx whose mother, a domestic worker, whiled away her free time at the courthouse watching trials. That, and Roberts's own belief that her brothers' friends kept going away for years at a time because there were no good lawyers to help them, inspired Roberts to become a lawyer. She won a scholarship to Wesleyan University and attended law school at the University of California's prestigious Boalt Hall. She spent eight years in the DC public defender's office before opening her own practice representing everyone from slumlords to accused murderers. Following the Bakaly victory, Roberts moved uptown to join Shea & Gardner, a tony firm on Massachusetts Avenue, where she will be renting her skills to a higher class of criminal. In time she plans to get more involved in profitable corporate litigation.

Does she have any second thoughts about working for corporate types? "I've been defending the worst of the worst for a long time," she says. "That doesn't trouble me at all."

2. BRENDAN V. SULLIVAN JR.

Williams & Connolly

IN THE 14 YEARS SINCE BRENDAN SULLIVAN REACHED NATIONal prominence with his spirited defense of Oliver North, he has emerged as the quintessential litigator, the first choice of almost everyone in trouble--if you can get him. Sullivan is a relentless advocate; it is not a myth that his counterattacks have put more prosecutors in jail than their indictments have put away his clients. His principal partner in criminal cases is Barry Simon, himself one of the toughest defense attorneys in the nation. Colleagues say of Simon, "He could tick off the Pope."

Sullivan redefines the word "busy"--he spends as much time in court as anybody in town. He is suing Microsoft on behalf of nine state attorneys general who were not happy that the federal government decided not to pursue the software giant. He has been retained by the Washington tech firm MicroStrategy to defend itself against shareholder suits. And he still finds time to represent labor leaders, Cabinet secretaries, and manufacturers accused of all sorts of wrongdoing.

3. EARL SILBERT

Piper Marbury Rudnick & Wolfe

HOW DOES A LAWYER KNOW HE'S HIGHLY VALUED? WHEN THE guy in the most trouble in the world calls him. Not many people were surprised when Kenneth Lay, former chairman of Houston's Enron Corporation, dialed the number of Earl Silbert, for 40 years a mentor and guru to most of Washington's top criminal lawyers. He is still remembered as the finest person to serve as US Attorney here.

Unlike the caricature of the defense attorney, he is modest, polite, and self-effacing. In one of his most high-profile defenses, Silbert and partner Adam Hoffinger won the acquittal of FBI agent Lon Horiuchi, accused of the 1992 shooting at Ruby Ridge. He once helped a member of the Washington Capitals hockey team avoid prison sentences after their arrest for an alleged rape. Other famous clients have included former White House chief of staff Erskine Bowles and Indonesian businessman James Riady. Bowles was distraught when he got dragged into the Whitewater investigation; when it was over he said of his attorney, "I'd follow him anywhere."

4. THOMAS C. GREEN

Sidley Austin Brown & Wood

EVERYTHING ABOUT TOM GREEN CRIES OUT "intimidator." If you're in a tough spot and you believe the best defense is a good offense, he's the guy you want. The six-foot, 250-pound former Army artillery officer has been called "a mean SOB"--and that's by one of his best friends.

Green gets in on almost every scandal. He represented General Richard Secord during Iran-Contra, Senator David Durenberger during the savings-and-loan debacle, and Arkansas-based Tyson Foods during the Michael Espy investigations. He represented Democratic fundraiser Beth Dozoretz after allegations surfaced that she used money and influence to win the pardon of fugitive financier Marc Rich.

Green's best-known recent client is Wen Ho Lee, the Los Alamos-based scientist accused of being a spy. Even after getting Lee's name effectively cleared by the FBI, Green wasn't content. He has filed suit against the government, charging prosecutors with illegally leaking information about Lee to reporters.

5. REID H. WEINGARTEN

Steptoe & Johnson

FORMER TEAMSTERS BOSS RON CAREY COULD have hired any lawyer to defend himself in New York against allegations that he lied about the diversion of nearly $900,000 in union dues to his 1996 Teamsters war chest. He chose Weingarten, a former chief of the Justice Department's public-integrity section. Carey did not regret the decision. Weingarten's closing argument was spell-binding. After the jurors came back with their verdict acquitting Carey, one commented, "I felt sorry for him. I actually believed he was a good guy trying to carry out good things for the Teamsters."

Like every top lawyer, Weingarten has lost some big ones. He engineered the insanity defense of Eugene Bennett, a former FBI agent charged with plotting to kill his wife, Marguerite Bennett, also an ex-FBI agent, whom her husband alleged had had an affair with crime novelist Patricia Cornwell. Bennett got 23 years. Not even the best lawyer can work miracles every time.

6. NANCY LUQUE

Reed Smith

TELEVISION IS FILLED WITH BRILLIANT FE-male defense attorneys, but the real world of litigation is still dominated by men. Yet Luque has risen to the highest level of Washington defense attorneys by playing the game her own way. She is resourceful, inventive, and tireless in figuring a way for her client to avoid jail.

She has represented such high-profile defendants as Democratic fundraiser Maria Hsia and Hillary Clinton brother Hugh Rodham. One of her most interesting cases was that of Julie Hiatt Steele, the Richmond woman indicted during Monicagate. Luque doesn't just take on clients, she devotes herself to them. After the trial, Steele was free, but Luque continued to make sure her name was cleared as well.

Among Luque's current clients is Zakaria Oweiss, a Potomac gynecologist charged with bludgeoning his wife. The case has not been tried yet, but Luque is off to her typically good start. After the defendant had been denied bond three times, Luque convinced the judge to put Oweiss under house arrest at the home of his brother, explaining that under the tightened watch of Arab-Americans, Oweiss couldn't flee if he wanted to. It was a good example of Luque's perseverance and imagination, two of the qualities you want in an attorney.

7. KENNETH STARR

Kirkland & Ellis

NO LAWYER IN WASHINGTON WAS HAPPIERto see the Clinton investigations end than Ken Starr, the special prosecutor who was vilified for his role in the case. Ironically, Starr had tried to disassociate himself from Whitewater before the whole Lewinsky matter was even discovered. Then he got stuck in it and couldn't get out. Now that the news has moved on to other things, Starr has been happy to go on television and talk about the Microsoft settlement, in which he advises opponents of Microsoft, and Ohio's school-voucher program, whose brief before the US Supreme Court he helped write.

Starr is a brilliant legal mind, but he was never meant to be a prosecutor. In private practice, he litigates important and far-reaching cases that will affect life in America, many of them too arcane to make the papers. But he's still found time for two years to visit Anacostia High School every week to teach a 9 AM senior class in constitutional law. Nothing you read about Starr can say much more than that.

8. RICHARD COOPER

Williams & Connolly

ANYONE IN THE TOP ECHELON OF WASHINGton's most prestigious firm will tell you that the real brains of the outfit is Richard Cooper. He's a former Rhodes scholar, a summa cum laude graduate of Harvard Law School, a former Supreme Court clerk for Justice William Brennan Jr., a prolific writer, and the husband of equally brainy Georgetown University Law School dean Judith Areen.

In his law practice, Cooper is lead attorney for one the most legally challenged companies in the world, R.J. Reynolds Tobacco. In 1999 the US Food and Drug Administration was threatening to declare tobacco a drug, thereby bringing it under FDA regulation. Many presumed that if the FDA regulated tobacco, it would inevitably be banned as unsafe. Cooper developed the strategy of taking the case to the US Supreme Court. It was a risky move: If the industry lost in court, it could be more damaged than if it lost political battles. But Cooper's high-stakes gamble paid off. He won a landmark 5-4 ruling that Congress had never given the FDA authority to regulate tobacco.

9. PLATO CACHERIS

Law Offices of Plato Cacheris

IF THERE WAS EVER AN ATTORNEY ON WHOM to base a TV series, Cacheris would be the man. He is cool, calm, and imperturbable, and his Greek good looks are still there at age 72. He earned his reputation at the arm of glamorous femmes fatales like Iran-Contra's document shredder, Fawn Hall, who once smuggled documents out of the White House in her bra. More recently he took up the case of Monica Lewinsky, who smuggled herself into the White House without a bra.

Spies have become a major part of Cacheris's practice. He has negotiated guilty pleas for CIA spy Aldrich Ames and FBI traitor Robert Hanssen that saved both from the death penalty. Now he is representing Defense Intelligence Agency analyst Ana Belen Montes, who is accused of providing classified information to Cuba.

10. MICHAEL JONES

Kirkland & Ellis

THE PRESS TENDS TO MAKE HEROES OF lawyers who win large judgments, while those who beat them off usually labor in obscurity. But in the field there is little doubt that 41-year-old Michael Jones has become Washington's master defense lawyer. The former research assistant to DC Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton says his secret is that after he writes a brief, he lets his wife read it, figuring that the jury is going to think a lot more like his wife than like his partners at Kirkland & Ellis.

Jones also understands the mind of the plaintiff's lawyer better than most: One of his six siblings is a personal-injury lawyer back home in Shreveport, Louisiana. Too many defense lawyers in personal-injury cases try to argue the law and ignore the emotion in the cases; Jones builds sympathy for his client. For that he is avidly sought by big corporations hoping to avoid big judgments against them.

11. THEODORE WELLS

Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison

WHEN NEW JERSEY SENATOR ROBERT TORRIcelli realized he was in trouble with a New Jersey prosecutor investigating potential bribes, he called a Washington-born cabbie's son, Ted Wells, now co-chair of white-collar litigation at one of the premier New York-based law firms. And when New Yorker lawyers depend on a Washingtonian to lead them, he must be something.

Ted Wells is definitely something. In the 1960s he was a star lineman at Northwest DC's Coolidge High School. Two colleges got into a dispute over where he would play: Wells believed he had agreed to play at Pitt. Then he got a call from Holy Cross board member Edward Bennett Williams telling him to report to Holy Cross and that he, Williams, would deal with Pitt. Wells knew then and there that he wanted to be a lawyer. Williams became his mentor.

As a litigator, Wells does not rest until he gets the outcome he wants. In court he is assertive, quick on his feet, and convincing. Torricelli seemed headed for indictment until Wells was brought into the case. In a matter of months, Wells convinced prosecutors to drop their investigation into Torricelli's campaign finances.

12. MICHAEL HAUSFELD

Cohen, Milstein, Hausfeld & Toll

MICHAEL HAUSFELD SUES SO MANY PEOPLE in so many places that one might be tempted to dismiss him as the legal version of Jesse Jackson. Trouble is, Hausfeld consistently brings in the biggest judgments in the history of law. He has won judgments worth hundreds of millions of dollars against oil companies like Exxon and Texaco., has attacked drug manufacturers and bullet makers, and is at the center of suits against Ford and Bridgestone Tires in connection with tread-separation accidents. The son of Holo-caust survivors, Hausfeld may now be best known for winning $7 billion in compensation for Jews whose possessions were taken by Germans and stored in Swiss banks.

Hausfeld is now trying to win restitution in US courts for East Asian "comfort women" mistreated by the Japanese before and during World War II. One might wonder how such a case could be heard in US courts, but such stumbling blocks don't deter Hausfeld, a Washington lawyer determined to change the world--and succeeding.

13. ROBERT BORK

Sole Practitioner

THE 15 YEARS SINCE ROBERT BORK WAS denied a seat on the US Supreme Court have not been easy for him. He was believed to have one of the keenest legal minds in the United States. Since his rejection, Bork has battled serious illness and a long-term malaise, feeling that his life's dream was not fulfilled. He left the bench and never joined another law firm.

To the surprise of many, Bork is back practicing law and has regained his reputation, if it were ever lost, as the nation's finest antitrust and patent attorney. His phone at the American Enterprise Institute has been ringing off the hook with would-be clients. In January Bork argued one of the most complicated but important patent disputes ever brought before the high court. At stake were more than a million patents endangered by a lower court decision in favor of foreign copycat competitors. Bork's commanding arguments wowed those lucky enough to hear him. Afterward, several justices acknowledged that the only person in the room smart enough to fully understand the issue was Bork himself.

14. PETER D. GREENSPUN

Greenspun & Mann

EVER WONDER HOW TV SPORTS ANNOUNCER Marv Albert got off virtually scot-free from his assault charge, eventually having the record of his conviction expunged and putting his broadcasting career back on track? It was due in no small part to Greenspun, a defense lawyer based in Fairfax. Greenspun and ace partner Thomas Peter Mann routinely represent the most despised defendants in his state. He often wins the unwinnable.

He is impressive even when he doesn't. Greenspun offered a spirited defense of Caleb Daniel Hughes, the man ultimately convicted of abducting and killing five-year-old Melissa Brannen in Fairfax, one of this area's most publicized child murders. He also defended Zahid Mir, the roommate of the man who killed two CIA employees in front of headquarters at Langley. There aren't many high-profile Virginia cases in which Greenspun, a master of his craft, hasn't been involved.

15. CHARLES GITTINS

Sole Practitioner

ANY MILITARY FAMILY THAT DOESN'T CARRY the number of Charlie Gittins in its duffel bag may be guilty of negligence. Gittins handles everything military, from appeals of Pentagon performance reviews to the most serious courts martial.

The former Marine navigator practices out of his 57-acre Northern Virginia farm, from which he has orchestrated positive outcomes for Sergeant Major Gene McKinney, ultimately acquitted of 18 counts of sexual harassment; Scott Waddle, commander of the USS Greeneville, which hit and sank a Japanese fishing vessel; and one of the Marines involved in the ski-gondola accident in the Alps several years ago. Gittins's wife, a former MP, is a Winchester police officer.

16. WILLIAM H. JEFFRESS JR.

Baker Botts

ALABAMA-BORN BILL JEFFRESS IS ONE OF those Deep South natives who is instinctively at his best in a courtroom--quick on his feet, with a gracious manner appreciated by judges. A former Supreme Court clerk for Justice Potter Stewart, Jeffress has established a criminal-defense practice that is nationwide in scope.

For the past few months, he has been trying to reverse the conviction of a Louisiana state officeholder who, according to a jury, lied to the FBI in the prosecution of former governor Edwin Edwards. In other high-profile cases, Jeffress successfully represented Washington lawyers Clark Clifford and Robert Altman in connection with their stewardship of First American Bank and Tysons Food executive Archie Schaffer in the investigation of former Agriculture secretary Mike Espy.

17. WILLIAM W. TAYLOR III

Zuckerman Spaeder

A SOFT-SPOKEN NORTH CAROLINIAN, BILL Taylor has represented dozens of clients on both sides of the political spectrum--from an embattled aide to Senator Jesse Helms to now-deceased senator Alan Cranston, who was drawn into an investigation of political payoffs in the savings-and-loan industry. More recently, Taylor won a dismissal of charges against Thomas Welch, a leader of Salt Lake City's winning bid for the 2002 Winter Olympics accused of bribing members of the International Olympic Committee. Prosecutors are looking into filing new charges.

Taylor also has zealously defended Blanche Moore, a North Carolina woman convicted of poisoning a husband and a boyfriend. Taylor has represented Moore pro bono for seven years, but he has received some compensation. This Christ-mas Moore sent him a purple afghan that she knitted on death row.

18. JACOB STEIN

Stein, Mitchell & Mezines

HE MAY BE 76, BUT THIS NATIVE WASH-ingtonian still can mix it up with the best. With his trademark two-tone shoes and the dapper apparel from his wife's consignment shop, Stein is the best-known character in Washington law. And one of the shrewdest. He is a prolific writer and observer of the law and an accomplished humorist and raconteur, thoroughly versed in 18th-century French literature.

He found the spotlight during the Clinton administration as co-counsel, with Plato Cacheris, for presidential inamorata Monica Lewinsky. But it was hardly his 15 minutes of fame: Thirty years ago during Watergate, he defended Nixon lawyer Kenneth Parkinson, the only accused Watergate figure to be acquitted at trial.

His most impressive role was as special prosecutor for Reagan-era attorney general Edwin Meese. Stein conducted a complicated investigation in less than six months, found that no charges were warranted, and closed down the inquiry. It remains the exemplar of how a special-counsel investigation should be conducted--a model that none of his successors has followed.

19. JOHN W. NIELDS JR.

Howrey Simon Arnold & White

THE DAYS WHEN JOHN NIELDS REPRESENTED the Democratic members of Congress in the televised Iran-Contra investigation are over. But no criminal-defense attorney in Washington enjoys the respect of his peers more than Nields.

He handled the complicated plea bargain of former Clinton pal Webster Hubbell with dignity despite the media circus around the case. When special prosecutor Kenneth Starr attempted to indict Hubbell a second and a third time after Hubbell had already been to prison, Nields outflanked Starr and had the indictments quashed by the US Supreme Court. Nields's legal maneuvers caused Starr to tell author Benjamin Wittes that Nields was the most "exquisitely qualified defense lawyer in the country." Nields doesn't seek publicity, but his name is becoming known anyway. Two of his three daughters, Nerissa and Katryna, have cut CDs and are climbing the pop charts with their group, the Nields.

20. JOHN M. BRAY

King & Spalding

WHO WOULDN'T FEEL A PANG OF PANIC WHEN a letter comes from the IRS asking you to bring all your papers downtown? Of the handful of top-notch tax litigators in Washington, no one is better than John Bray.

He has represented some of the biggest names in corporate America, including Michael Andreas, the billionaire vice chairman of grain giant Archer Daniels Midland. The government sought a record fine of $25 million against Andreas in connection with fraud allegations. Bray succeeded in having it knocked down to $350,000. Bray points out that massive investigations like Enron produce "tremendous tax investigations, which spin off into audits" and adds, "in situations like this, everybody is fair game, even people not central to the investigation."

21. BERNARD GRIMM

Grimm, Petras & Wieser

BERNIE GRIMM HAS BECOME SOMETHING OF a legend in Washington courthouses, tirelessly defending bad guys without the backing of a big law firm. Courthouse watchers say his insanity defense of Tomar Locker, accused of killing boxer Reuben Bell, was the greatest courtroom performance by a Washington lawyer since the days of trial legend Ken Mundy, who died seven years ago. Locker, who never denied shooting Bell, was convicted only of possessing a firearm and instead of life in prison spent 60 days at St. Elizabeths, after which he was deemed to be in "perfect mental health" and released.

More recently Grimm arranged a plea for slum landlord Rufus Stancil under which he was sentenced to spend four days in jail and two months, including Christmas Eve, in housing where his tenants lived without heat, hot water, or basic sanitation. A Washington Post article noted that tenants of the building cheered the common-sense justice of the deal. Grimm and Stancil also cheered: Stancil faced a possible total of 17 years in prison and $21,000 in fines.

22. GERARD MITCHELL

Stein, Mitchell & Mezines

MAYBE IT'S BEING THE FATHER OF NINE CHILdren, but Gerry Mitchell doesn't fit the stereotype of the blustery plaintiff's lawyer. That hasn't stopped him from earning a reputation as the area's most effective medical-malpractice attorney. Mitchell has won many seven-figure judgments, most of which you never read about in the papers; he seems to be the only member of his specialty who doesn't send out press releases.

Mitchell screens cases carefully, rejecting nine out of ten. One of the most valuable services he performs is honestly and carefully explaining to most complainants why they have no case and why trying to find a lawyer to pursue one would be a waste of time and money. A Washington native, Mitchell is the son of Howard Mitchell, conductor of the National Symphony from 1949 to 1969.

23. PETER NICKLES

Covington & Burling

WASHINGTON LAWYERS CAN BE CALLED LOTS of names, but the "ironman" is 63-year-old Peter Nickles, a medal-winning triathlete in Ironman competitions. In his day job Nickles is the smartest environmental lawyer in the city, albeit one who works for mining companies like Asarco, which has battled governments and Indian tribes over who should pay for environmental cleanups.

What distinguishes Nickles from other corporate lawyers is that he probably gives away more hours to good causes than anyone in town. Since joining Covington & Burling in 1963, Nickles has represented prisoners, mental patients, and civil-rights activists on a continuing basis. His motto is NO RETREAT, NO SURRENDER, and he pursues his pro-bono agenda with the same energy he expends for paying clients. The fruits of Nickles's efforts include better mental-health care at St. Elizabeths--he was lead attorney on the case that caused a judge to place DC's mental-health system in the hands of an outside receiver--and less-crowded prisons.

24. THOMAS ABBENANTE

Sole Practitioner

COLLEAGUES AND JUDGES WILL TELL YOU that this trial specialist is a master of the courtroom--the equal of the best criminal lawyers uptown. Slight with curly black hair, Abbenante comes on like comedian Jim Carrey, occasionally shocking staid courtroom opponents but rarely losing a case--and he does it at bargain rates. Says one high-priced attorney, "I have referred dozens of clients to him, and he has never let me down."

Abbenante doesn't run up the hours, either. A ball of energy, he puts on his case, usually gets a successful verdict, and moves on. Problem solved, on to the next one. In one well-reported referral from uptown, Abbenante represented a State Department employee who hit a video-store clerk on the head with a cassette, then drove his car into the store--the defendant's way of protesting video-store late fees. The defendant faced jail time, but Abbenante convinced the court that the incident resulted from a medication problem and got the sentence reduced to community service.

25. E. LAWRENCE BARCELLA JR.

Paul, Hastings, Janofsky & Walker

LARRY BARCELLA COMES BY HIS INVESTIGAtive instincts honestly. His father was legendary UPI journalist Ernie Barcella; Larry was born a few streets away from old Griffith Stadium. As a young federal prosecutor before going into private practice, Barcella amazed colleagues with his skill at hunting down fugitives. His search for one hiding in Libya became the subject of a book. Barcella remains the most talented "investigative lawyer" in the country. When judges, the Justice Department, or foreign governments need someone to track something as dangerous and complicated as evidence in drug-cartel cases, Barcella is the man they call.

As a defense attorney, he is master of the "quiet kill," turning up evidence that forces prosecutors to drop their cases. He represented the Georgian diplomat who caused a fatal Dupont Circle traffic accident, arranging a prisoner transfer that got the diplomat, who was convicted of manslaughter, a trip home instead of seven years in jail here. The diplomat was released last month after serving 3H years in jail in Tbilisi.

26. DAVID E. KENDALL

Williams & Connolly

DAVID KENDALL WAS PREPARED TO BREATHE a sigh of relief when his best-known clients, Bill and Hillary Clinton, left the White House. But when you are involved with Bill Clinton, you are in for life. Kendall is enmeshed in "Clintigation" even now. First he had to defend the President against allegations that his last-minute pardons were payoffs. Then Kendall found himself in Arkansas and before the US Supreme Court trying--unsuccessfully--to prevent his client's disbarment.

Clinton is not Kendall's life work. In the era before Clinton, he was one of Washington's sharpest libel lawyers for his chief client, the Washington Post. He still is. Kendall also represents the Record Industry Association of America, which is involved in litigation to stop online music distributors from infringing on copyrights. He also has represented Mohamed al-Fayed, father of Dodi al-Fayed, the Saudi playboy killed with Princess Diana, to combat the public perception that Dodi was negligent in Di's death. It's an interesting legal role for Kendall, who spent years as libel lawyer for the National Enquirer.

27. ROBERT S. BENNETT

Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom

THROUGH HIS DEFENSE OF PRESIDENTClinton in the Paula Jones case, Bob Bennett has become one of the world's famous lawyers. But many of his colleagues believe that his mangled representation of the President in that case led to Clinton's impeachment by the House of Representatives.

Once a rumpled and gruffly affable local defense attorney, Bennett in recent years has tried to fit into the starchy culture of his New York-based law firm, and he appears less often in the trial courts where he won his reputation as a fierce and effective advocate. But the Skadden Arps cachet nets him lucrative work, and Bennett is once again at the center of things as lead counsel for Enron, a longtime Skadden client. Bennett does not take kindly to criticism, and he has been known to harangue and hang up on reporters. But the former amateur boxer remains one of the most powerful figures in American law.

28. JACK H. OLENDER

Jack H. Olender & Associates

IN THE PERSONAL-INJURY FIELD, HAVING A lawyer with a winning reputation is half the battle. No attorney in Washington is more feared than this medical-malpractice wizard, whose odd mannerisms and slow speech might make him at home at Harry Potter's alma mater, Hogwarts.

Olender is the giant of the plaintiffs bar, a reputation earned over years of devoted service to his clients, which in the end seems to outweigh the criticism he gets for his tasteless "brain-damaged baby" ads and his love of publicity. Olender takes only a few cases a year to trial. He doesn't need to--his appearance alone often causes insurance companies to offer seven-figure settlements.

29. SETH WAXMAN

Wilmer, Cutler & Pickering

AS SOLICITOR GENERAL IN THE CLINTON administration, Waxman proved on a big stage what lawyers in town have known since his arrival here as a clerk for Judge Gerhard Gesell in 1977--he is a major legal talent. After listening to Waxman argue 30 cases before the high court, Justice John Paul Stevens declared that he'd believed Robert Bork to be the most brilliant advocate he had ever heard at the court--until he heard Waxman.

Waxman spent 17 years as a litigator at the elite--now defunct--boutique firm Miller, Cassidy, Larocca & Lewin. After leaving the Justice Department he signed on with another top firm, Wilmer, Cutler & Pickering, where he has a lifetime ban on working on cases he'd been involved with as solicitor general. He is currently providing strategic advice to a host of firm clients, including Lockheed-Martin, Pepsico, and Citibank.

30. PAUL KEMP

Paul F. Kemp

WHEN MARYLAND LAWYERS AND JUDGESget in trouble and want the best lawyer in Montgomery County, they hire Paul Kemp. Among the dozens of legal professionals he has helped is Circuit Judge Durke G. Thompson, who incurred the wrath of womens' groups by telling an 11-year-old female sexual-assault victim that "it takes two to tango." Kemp's careful presentation won the judge the mildest form of rebuke from a review board. As it happens, Thompson is under fire again for setting aside a rape conviction, a move that prompted prosecutors to proclaim, "The two-to-tango judge dances again."

Kemp is one of a growing number of lawyers who have represented Mike Tyson. Kemp was called in after Tyson decked a motorist on Shady Grove Road. Tyson could have been sent back to Indiana for violating his parole in a rape case. Kemp, a fourth-generation Washingtonian, skillfully guided Tyson to a no-contest plea on second-degree assault charges. Tyson spent 30 days in jail instead of having his parole revoked.

31. W. NEIL EGGLESTON

Howrey Simon Arnold & White

A BRILLIANT, SOFT-SPOKEN NATIVE OF IN-diana, Eggleston has emerged from the shadow of his better-known partner John Nields to become one of the most important lawyers in Washington. Not yet 50, he was selected to represent the Enron Corporation's board of directors.

Eggleston, once a clerk for Chief Justice Warren Burger, has shown a deft touch in touchy matters before. Eggleston saved the job of one Labor secretary and helped kill the appointment of another. He represented Labor Secretary Alexis Herman, who was investigated but cleared of allegations that she misused her office. Then, after last year's election, he represented Margaret Zwisler, a neighbor of President Bush's designated Labor secretary, Linda Chavez. Zwisler's testimony about an illegal immigrant that both employed as a domestic helped sink Chavez's nomination. Zwisler's involvement in the Chavez situation was an example of how merely living near someone famous can cause you to need a top Washington lawyer.

32. CHARLES COOPER

Cooper & Kirk

COOPER WAS BARELY IN HIS THIRTIES WHEN President Reagan tapped this former Supreme Court clerk to serve as an assistant attorney general. Although he is invariably referred to as a "veteran" of the DC bar, Cooper only turned 50 in March. He was seriously considered by President Bush for solicitor general but was passed over for his professional rival, Ted Olson.

With Olson out of private practice, Cooper is now the first choice of conservatives wanting to press constitutional challenges. He has argued, almost always on the conservative side, several landmark cases before the federal courts, including defending single-sex colleges and school prayer. He alienated some friends by opposing the line-item veto, a position he ended up arguing and winning at the Supreme Court on behalf of New York City, which stood to lose $2.6 billion in Medicaid funds due to a Clinton veto.

33. NATHAN LEWIN

Lewin & Lewin

FORMERLY A NAME PARTNER AT NOW-defunct Miller, Cassidy, Larocca & Lewin, Nat Lewin was the most prominent member of the firm to go his own way. Most other members of the firm joined Baker Botts. But Lewin, one of the top constitutional lawyers, wanted to practice with his daughter Alyza.

Lewin, who has argued nearly 30 cases at the US Supreme Court, has represented such clients as John Lennon, Jodie Foster, Richard Nixon, and Edwin Meese, whom he sheltered from Jacob Stein's special-counsel investigation. A Holocaust survivor born in Poland, Lewin often champions the rights of Orthodox Jews in cases involving dietary matters and Saturday-observance disputes. Long before President Bush froze the assets of organizations linked to terrorists, Lewin had filed suit against some of the same groups claiming that they were funding Palestinian suicide bombers. The case was proceeding through the courts when September 11 demonstrated his point.

34. PATRICK REGAN

Regan, Halperin & Long

A NATIVE OF QUANTICO AND A GRADUATE OF Catholic University, Patrick Regan is one of that rare breed of personal-injury lawyer who refuses to advertise, and he researches every potential case himself--without charging a fee. Last year he negotiated a $4-million settlement in Virginia, where such numbers are not the norm, in a wrongful-death case in which a tractor-trailer's backup alarm had been disconnected. Regan also represents Jake Miles-McLean, a boy injured two years ago in a diving-board accident at DC's Wilson High School.

Regan practices in all three local jurisdictions and is equally adept at medical malpractice and wrongful death. One group usually spared Regan's attention is dentists. "Those are very difficult cases," he says. "When one comes in, I send it to my father to evaluate." His ex-Marine dad is a dentist.

35. RICHARD E. WILEY

Wiley Rein & Fielding

ALTHOUGH HIS SPECIALTY IS ARCANE, RICH-ard Wiley is such a giant in his field that this list would be incomplete without him. The former head of the Federal Communications Commission is the number-one communications lawyer in the nation. He counts among his clients some of the largest companies in the world, and the current direction of communications is largely a result of his guidance and ideas.

Almost singlehandedly, Wiley has built one of the country's most respected law firms. His co-name partner, Fred Fielding, a former White House counsel in the Reagan administration, is a top white-collar litigator.

36. JOHN DOWD

Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer & Feld

IF YOU'VE EVER WONDERED WHY PETE ROSE can't get into baseball's Hall of Fame, you have to look no farther than attorney John Dowd, for whom keeping Rose out has become a cottage industry. Dowd was the investigator Major League Baseball brought in years ago to look into Rose's gambling. One of the toughest and most stubborn members of Washington's white-collar bar, Dowd has never wavered in his conviction that Rose damaged baseball. Every time Rose makes a public plea, Dowd is there to swat him down.

Working at the firm headed by legendary Washington power broker Robert Strauss, Dowd has represented such political powerhouses as then-Senate majority leader Trent Lott, who discovered that an employee of his political-action fund stole $850,000 to buy drugs. Dowd got the money returned, the employee into a drug program, and the investigation concluded with no damage to Lott.

37. STANLEY BRAND

Brand & Frulla

A ONETIME AIDE TO HOUSE SPEAKER TIP O'Neill, Brand has been representing politicians in trouble for more than two decades. He's the lawyer Tony Coelho turned to when the former California congressman was scrutinized for a questionable loan taken while he was ambassador to Portugal. Coelho eventually was cleared. Brand also advised former Clinton aide George Stephanopoulos during a civil suit alleging that Stephanopoulos had information about White House snooping into FBI files.

Now Brand's expertise and influence are being tapped by troubled accounting giant Arthur Andersen, whose activities are expected to be the subject of congressional questioning. But a good portion of Brand's time isn't spent on behalf of major-league clients. He's vice president of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues, the governing body of Minor League Baseball.

38. MICHAEL TIGAR

Tigar Law Firm

IN THE 1960s, MICHAEL TIGAR HAD HISclerkship for Justice William Brennan Jr. revoked because of his membership in the left-wing Students for a Democratic Society. Brennan, who dismissed Tigar under pressure from the Nixon administration, which was looking to force liberal judges off the high court, regrettedthe action and placed him at Williams & Connolly.

Tigar has now become perhaps the most important human-rights lawyer in America, taking on the cases of the most reviled criminals of the day. One example is his representation of Terry Nichols, the alleged co-conspirator of Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh. In years past Tigar has represented members of the Black Panthers, suspected Nazis, and radical bombers. The Annapolis resident is currently suing former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger for the wrongful death of a leftist Chilean military commander and is attempting to use the US courts to repatriate 4,000 former residents of Diego Garcia who were moved off the island when the United States built its Air Force base there.

39. PETER R. SHERMAN

Sherman, Meehan, Curtin & Ain

BECAUSE DIVORCE LAWYERS WORK IN A world all their own, The Washingtonian compiles a separate list of top divorce lawyers every two or three years. But a few are so good that they should be on any list of top Washington lawyers.

Peter Sherman, a dignified Indiana native, is as calm and imperturbable a lawyer as you will find. He's a bit of a numbers geek--and the larger the sums involved, the more valuable he is. Perhaps the most careful attorney in Washington, Sherman makes discretion almost an obsession. If you don't want your name or case in the papers, you can be sure that this lawyer will put your interests ahead of his own.

40. MICHAEL MAGGIO

Maggio Kattar

WASHINGTON'S BEST IMMIGRATION LAWYER grew up in an Italian family in south Phil-adelphia. When he told his father he wanted to be an "immigration lawyer," Papa hit the roof--practitioners of the specialty were famous for ripping off new arrivals who didn't speak the language.

Maggio has done it right, representing everyone from housekeepers to entertainers and circus groups coming for performances to corporate CEOs. Fluent in Spanish, Maggio provided a great deal of advice to Juan Miguel González during his struggle to regain custody of his son, Elián, who was found at sea following an accident while trying to flee Cuba with his mother.

41. SANFORD K. AIN

Sherman, Meehan, Curtin & Ain

SANDY AIN LONG HAS BEEN REGARDED AS one of the top divorce lawyers in Washington. Now it can be said that he literally wrote the books on the subject. Or booklets, anyway--one on the valuation and division of stock options, the other comparing the domestic-relations laws of Virginia, Maryland, and DC.

His long list of famous clients includes Frances Anne Glendening, ex-wife of the Maryland governor, and Monica Turner, wife of Mike Tyson. In the nondivorce side of his business, Ain handles a lot of corporate succession work, telling business owners how to pass their companies on to children with the fewest negative tax consequences.

42. CONO R. NAMORATO

Caplin & Drysdale

A BROOKLYN-BORN TAX LAWYER, NAMORATO worked his way up from special agent involved in tax prosecutions to chief of the tax division at the Justice Department in the late 1970s. Now the McLean resident is one of the top names anyone with tax troubles should have at hand. When the IRS comes calling, it's looking for a pattern of fraud; most often it has proof of three years' worth of fraudulent returns before bringing a case.

Namorato sees his role as settling matters before indictments come up. "The IRS wins convictions in 90 percent of their cases," he says. "So you don't want things to get to that point. You have to be able to have a dialogue." Among the clients who have come to Namorato over the years are former HUD secretary Henry Cisneros and Democratic fundraisers Nora and Gene Lum, who were investigated in connection with questionable campaign contributions.

43. ROBERT BARNETT

Williams & Connolly

SEEING THAT HIS CLIENT LIST INCLUDES GOVernment officials past and present, Republican and Democrat, dozens of media bigwigs, several First Ladies, and many foreign heads of state, you could make a case that Robert Barnett is the most connected man in Washington. He represented Nancy Reagan, and he maintains a close friendship and business relationship with Hillary and Bill Clinton. He handles contract negotiations for local and network media giants. He arranges speeches, book deals, and employment contracts for nearly anyone who is anybody.

Barnett's practice is unique. Instead of taking an agent's percentage, he bills by the hour. He still makes a lot of money, but his shrewd deals put even more in the pockets of his clients.

44. RALPH FERRARA

Debevoise & Plimpton

NOW THAT WASHINGTON LAWYER HARVEY Pitt has become chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission, the race to be the dean of securities lawyers is wide open. Ralph Ferrara, a former general counsel at the SEC who wanted the job Pitt got, is a contender.

Ferrara, a master at working with corporations experiencing major problems, is frequently hired by boards of directors at odds with management. When the SEC found that Waste Management had inflated financial reports, its board brought in Ferrara to get the company back on track. Ferrara has a blunt, take-no-guff approach to corporate integrity. In the near-collapse of the Washington-based Internet company MicroStrategy, its board hired Ferrara to read the riot act to company founder Michael Saylor, whom Ferrara told point-blank that he was "ruining the company."

45. KENNETH ADAMS

Dickstein Shapiro

THE LEGAL WORLD'S BEST CARD PLAYER IS also tops when the client's chips are on the table. He won a landmark $5-billion judgment on behalf of Alaskan fishermen after the Exxon Valdez crash. Exxon is still fighting the award. He won $36 million from Archer Daniels Midland in connection with a price-fixing scandal for clients Quaker Oats and Proctor & Gamble. Then Adams took on the vitamin industry, claiming that manufacturers conspired to fix prices and drive up the cost of vitamins added to commercial feed and food products.

Unlike many lawyers who put their fees first and their clients' interests second, Adams has actually rejected settlement offers that he felt gave him too much and his clients too little.

46. HOWARD SHAPIRO

Wilmer, Cutler & Pickering

HOWARD SHAPIRO IS FASHIONING ONE OF THE great comeback stories in the history of Washington law. He arrived here from New York with his friend and mentor Louis Freeh, then head of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. But in the wreckage of Ruby Ridge, Waco, and other FBI fiascos during the Freeh years, Shapiro became something of a scapegoat. Freeh was allowed to stay at FBI, but Shapiro had to depart--into the arms of Wilmer, Cutler & Pickering, the firm headed by political wise man and Democratic adviser Lloyd Cutler.

Shapiro has found his element, proving himself a master legal strategist and trial attorney. His oratorical skills were recently on display in federal court, where he won a David-versus-Goliath-type $505-million judgment in a drug-patent case.

47. MONA LYONS

Clifford, Lyons & Garde

JUDGES STILL BUZZ ABOUT A CASE MONA Lyons handled in 1993 for Charles Hamel, a onetime oil-pipeline executive and corporate whistleblower who was spied on by an employer who doubted his loyalty. Not only was the case settled generously for Lyons's client; it set precedents that still apply for so-called whistleblower suits. The federal judge in the case, Stanley Sporkin, called Lyons "bright, able, hard-hitting, but totally ethical."

Over the years many Washingtonians with disputes against employers have learned that this Catholic University law grad is the person to turn to. When Howard University employee Alisia Billups was fired, apparently in retaliation for filing a sex-discrimination suit, Lyons went into action. Billups eventually won all due back pay, plus compensatory damages, and forced Howard to pay all her legal bills.

48. WAYNE COHEN

Cohen & Cohen

THROUGH HIS SOMETIMES-TACKY ADS ON cable television, Wayne Cohen has be-come a household name--at least among those who watch a lot of TV. But Cohen is more sophisticated than his ads might suggest. Both he and his partner/wife, Jill Cohen, are University of Michigan grads with good instincts for the jugular. Cohen can be persistent--not a bad trait for a plaintiff's lawyer; clients have a right to be suspicious of a lawyer who's too chummy with the other side.

When some 20 DC middle-school students were strip-searched during a tour of the DC jail, Cohen was hired to make things right. He avoided making a media circus out of the affair, as some critics predicted he would, and instead worked out an undisclosed seven-figure settlement to be split among the defendants. He is also at the forefront of a suit seeking to force movie theaters to provide hearing aids for deaf patrons.

49. WILLIAM R. MARTIN

Dyer Ellis & Joseph

ONE OF EIGHT CHILDREN BORN INTO Asteelworker's family outside Pittsburgh, Billy Martin has handled a string of cases for athletes, including the Philadelphia 76ers' Allen Iverson, then-Washington Wizards Juwan Howard and Rod Strickland, and boxer Riddick Bowe.

He has gained most of his notoriety by representing parents--the mother of presidential fling Monica Lewinsky and the parents of missing intern Chandra Levy. Until the case was snuffed out of the headlines by the September 11 terrorist attacks, Martin had done a yeoman's job of holding Congressman Gary Condit's feet to the fire in the suspicious affair.

50. ROBERT BONSIB

Marcus & Bonsib

BOB BONSIB HAD 16 YEARS' PROSECUTORIAL experience before he switched to the defense side. Few lawyers in Maryland know the ins and outs of the court system better, and no one is more expert at defending police in trouble. When prosecutors accused a former Takoma Park police detective of covering up a police-dog attack, Bonsib succeeded in having the charges dismissed, enabling the defendant to return to his new job with the FBI.

In a nonpolice case, Bonsib represented a Silver Spring family accused of holding a Cameroonian immigrant in bondage for four years. "In this kind of a practice, once a case gets to a jury, the prosecutor has an advantage," Bonsib says. "You hope to get your clients acquitted, and if you can't, you make sure that they get sentenced in the most fair way possible."

51. MARK ROCHON

Miller & Chevalier

LIKE HIS FORMER PARTNER MICHELE ROB-erts, Mark Rochon worked his way through the local court system as a public defender and then in private practice. He has tried more cases and seen the inside of more courtrooms than almost any other attorney in town. His success in defending drug dealers has infuriated prosecutors.

Rochon seems to relate as well to his criminal defendants as he does to appellate judges. In a case involving a brutal 1994 murder, Rochon won the first of four acquittals for defendant Corey Antonio Moore, who become known as "the Teflon client." Legal Times called Rochon the "go-to lawyer" for DC's criminal defendants. In his new position at Miller & Chevalier, which specializes in tax law, his clients likely will be wearing whiter collars.

52. MARNA S. TUCKER

Feldesman, Tucker, Leifer, Fidell & Bank

IN LAW AS IN POLITICS, THE IMAGE OF POWER is nearly as important as its exercise. Marna Tucker has carved out a persona in Washington law as a shrewd and canny lawyer who almost always lands a piece of the big cases. She recently handled the divorce of John Thompson, former basketball coach at Georgetown University.

Her supporting cast, led by the marvelous Rita M. Bank, is a tribute to Tucker's firm-building prowess. Tucker, who has been married to Judge Lawrence Baskir for 28 years, no longer tries as many cases as she once did but does an increasing amount of nonbinding mediation between couples, trying, as she puts it, "to decide what each side wants and move it forward so couples can avoid the ultimate trump card--going to court."

53. JOE MONTEDONICO

Montedonico, Belcuore & Tazzara

THE CITY'S PREEMINENT MEDICAL-MALPRACtice defense lawyer is Joe Montedonico, who has been defending doctors for 30 years and has won 25 of his last 26 jury trials. Montedonico believes that the key to beating the natural sympathy juries have for a mother who just lost a baby is to get the jury to like the defendant and his attorney just as much.

You won't see Montedonico stepping into court in a pinstriped suit. "Malpractice cases are 80 percent psychology and 20 percent fact," he says. Montedonico is building a house in Arizona but is expected to continue defending clients here for several more years.

54. JOSEPH CAMMARATA

Chaikin & Sherman

ALTHOUGH HE WILL FOREVER BE KNOWN AS the lawyer for Paula Jones, Cammarata is yet another player in the Monicagate scandal who has gone on with his life. Cammarata's representation legitimized Jones's claim of sexual harassment, which ultimately led to President Clinton's impeachment by the House of Representatives.

Now Cammarata has moved to an office off Massachusetts Avenue where he is building on his reputation as one of the town's top personal-injury lawyers. He continues to enjoy representing people who, like his most famous client, are not necessarily rich, famous, or powerful. Clients for whom he has engineered lucrative settlements include bartenders, cabdrivers, and pastors. The Brooklyn native is representing, along with top-rank partner Ira Sherman, ten families whose relatives died while in the care of the DC mental-health system.

55. BETH WILKINSON

Latham & Watkins

AN ATTRACTIVE FORMER ARMY OFFICER WHO might fit into the cast of JAG, Wilkinson was one of the Justice Department's leading experts on terrorism at the age of 32. She was involved in the federal prosecutions of former Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega, but she earned a national reputation as part of the team that convicted Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh.

Since joining Latham & Watkins, Wilkinson has been much in demand. She advised Ford Motor Company on handling issues related to the Firestone-tire fiasco and led a Salt Lake City organizing-committee investigation into whether bribery played a role in awarding the Olympic games to Utah; the committee was so pleased that Wilkinson was chosen to carry the Olympic torch. At least we think the committee was pleased: Her assignment was two-tenths of a mile in Brooklyn.

56. RICHARD BEN-VENISTE

Mayer, Brown, Rowe & Maw

ONCE FAMOUS FOR HIS ROLE AS A YOUTHFUL prosecutor with the Watergate task force that ultimately undid President Nixon, Richard Ben-Veniste, now 59, has seamlessly made the transition to elder statesman of the Washington bar.

His experience often puts him in the middle of the hot issues of the day. Feisty and sardonic, he was chief minority counsel to the Senate Whitewater committee. When Democratic fundraiser and now Democratic National Committee chairman Terry McAuliffe was dragged into an investigation of campaign contributions from the Teamsters, Ben-Veniste rode to his rescue. No charges were brought.

57. ABBE LOWELL

Manatt, Phelps & Phillips

ABBE LOWELL BECAME A FAMILIAR FACElast year as the attorney of record for Gary Condit, the California congressman enmeshed in the disappearance of former intern Chandra Levy. Typically, Lowell mounted an all-out effort to save his client from public condemnation, appearing nonstop on talk shows. He may have overplayed his hand when he allowed an unrepentant client to do an interview with Connie Chung. Lowell and Condit have parted ways, and Lowell claims the big problem with the relationship was that Condit did not take his advice.

Lowell also played an instrumental role in the exoneration of Senator Robert Torricelli of New Jersey. He plays the public-relations game as well as any attorney but also shines in court. "My practice," says Lowell, "has been one in which I can play all the roles."

58. PETER GRENIER

Bode & Grenier

PETER GRENIER, A 38-YEAR-OLD NOTRE DAME grad, has become Washington's hottest personal-injury lawyer by accident. He was doing mundane business law in 1994 when a partner walked in and asked if he would help a relative who had been punched by a trash collector. The relative was hoping for a small recovery from the guy who hit him. Grenier decided to sue the employer, Waste Management, and ended up winning the client $1.5 million. Suddenly Grenier had a new practice area. Two years ago he won a $98-million jury award against the DC police department in connection with the shooting at the Georgetown Starbucks. An appellate court knocked the verdict down to $1.1 million, but the Grenier legend was born.

He now receives as many as 175 calls a week from potential clients, but the one he is busiest with is the family of a teacher killed in the Columbine High School massacre in Colorado. A federal judge dismissed a host of claims against the county where the attacks took place, leaving intact only Grenier's claim, that the teacher could have been rescued. Grenier wryly says his philosophy is simple: "I try to take cases so obvious that even a baboon could win them."

59. RICHARD A. HIBEY

Winston & Strawn

WHEN THE US OLYMPIC COMMITTEE NEEDED a hardheaded Washington lawyer to re-write the rules on bidding for the worldwide games, Dick Hibey was the man it turned to. The Georgetown University grad has a rare understanding of international law and politics, skills he put to use representing former Philippine leaders Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos after they were deposed.

Hibey handles all kinds of special assignments, in court and out. He tried a lengthy case for a big national law firm in a malpractice suit, getting the damages reduced to less than what the firm was paid in fees. Earlier this year a Florida law school hired him to help it win accreditation from the American Bar Association after failing on its own three times. With Hibey having pled its case, Barry University Law School is in business.

60. ELIZABETH STERN

Shaw Pittman

DAUGHTER OF AN ECUADORIAN DIPLOMAT, Liz Stern has crafted a unique law practice advising US companies that rely on an international workforce.

Her practice has boomed since September 11 as companies attempt to ease travel problems for their employees. Legitimate visa holders are sometimes threatened with detention because their papers don't meet new standards for entry--especially those holding passports from one of the 26 countries on the "highest alert" list. Stern knows the people to call and how to get clients in and out of the country. She provides clients with constantly updated travel advisories and tips on how to smooth things out at border crossings and consulates.

61. ALBERT BRAULT

Brault, Graham, Scott & Brault

PEOPLE WHO SUE OFTEN GET A MOMENT OF satisfaction just from the delivery of the subpoenas and notices, but for the person or business on the receiving end, it is a dispiriting experience. You have to hire a lawyer, and unlike the plaintiff--who usually gets a free ride because his attorney works on contingency--you have to pay by the hour unless the fees are covered by insurance.

For many Marylanders who have been sued over the years, the solution has been Albert Brault of Rockville, acknowledged by his opponents as their most formidable foe. At 68, Brault has pretty much seen it all.

You won't read about many of his successes in the papers. "Rarely, and I mean rarely to the point of never, does a newspaper report a defendant's verdict," Brault observes. Nor for the most part have they reported the hundreds of big verdicts that have been overturned on appeal due to Brault's work.

62. WILLIAM BRENNAN

Brennan, Trainor, Billman & Bennett

IF YOU'VE HIRED SOMEONE TO KILL YOUR spouse, and the police are banging on the door, Bill Brennan could be the guy to call. Few Maryland attorneys have more experience in complex hit-man cases.

One of his clients was James Edward Perry, who had been sentenced to death for the murders-for-hire of a Silver Spring woman, her severely disabled son, and his nurse. Brennan won a sentence reversal that spared Perry, a self-proclaimed "street minister," death by lethal injection. Brennan's partner Harry Trainor is also highly regarded.

63. KATHERINE MEYER

Meyer & Glitzenstein

AT HER 50TH-BIRTHDAY PARTY LAST YEAR, Kathy Meyer was only half-joking when she told friends and family the motto of her firm: "No case too small, no fee too big." Meyer and her partner/husband, Eric Glitzenstein, have a practice that centers on protecting animals and wildlife.

Many of their biggest clients are animal-rights and national environmental groups. They have recently negotiated a settlement with various federal agencies to protect the highly endangered Florida manatee, gone to court to stop culling of bison herds, and delayed construction of the world's largest telescope in Arizona on behalf of the Mount Graham red squirrel. Keep their phone number away from your pet.

64. CHRISTOPHER MEAD

London & Mead

BEFORE HE WENT TO LAW SCHOOL, CHRIS Mead tried his hand at being an author and sportswriter. His biography of Joe Louis was excerpted in Sports Illustrated.

While working at a law firm as a summer associate, Mead says he realized one could make more money writing one brief than an entire book. Mead was an associate at Williams & Connolly, then became a prosecutor in Baltimore. In 1994 he formed London & Mead with friend Mark London. Mead is equally adept in criminal-defense and civil matters. He recently won acquittal for Danny Gershoni, president of a Gaithersburg company that supplied cardiac-monitoring devices, who was accused of submitting fraudulent bills to Medicare.

65. LYNNE BERNABEI

Bernabei & Katz

THIS RADCLIFFE-EDUCATED, HARVARD LAW School graduate has taken over as Wash-ington's leading defender of workers who have a grievance against their employer. Operating out of a three-story townhouse on T Street, Northwest, with partner Debra Katz, Bernabei can try cases at any level of complexity, from landlord-tenant disputes to multimillion-dollar feuds between law partners.

The style of the firm is noisy and combative. Katz is controversial and confrontational. Bernabei is the steady, more thoughtful partner. Rival firms like to avoid them at all cost. Says one lawyer at a firm that defends employers in labor disputes, "Whenever we discuss a situation, we ask, 'What if Bernabei and Katz get hold of this?' "

66. JOSEPH SELLERS

Cohen, Milstein, Hausfeld & Toll

JOE SELLERS WAS ONE OF THOSE COMMITTED JFK-era types who wanted to use the law to change society. He believes that the threat of a suit--not the actions of prosecutors--is the best enforcement mechanism for civil-rights laws. For 16 years he was head of the Equal Employment Project at the Wash-ington Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs; he represented victims of discrimination on the job and in public places. He also filed landmark suits, such as one against a chain of health clubs when he found that it had dual membership procedures to discourage blacks from joining.

Now Sellers has decided to try making some money doing his kind of work: He has joined a private firm with resources and litigation support. His newest target is Wal-Mart, where he represents a class of some 400,000 female employees, past and present, who he claims were passed over for pay raises and promotions.

67. JOSEPH D. PIORKOWSKI

Shook, Hardy & Bacon

A FORMER MEDICAL-MALPRACTICE LAWYER who represented Georgetown University Hospital, Piorkowski is now regarded as part of corporate America's thin blue line against the constant assault from the plaintiff's bar. His team headed the effort of American Home Products to keep the controversial contraceptive Norplant on the market despite a fierce assault by tort lawyers who claimed it was harmful. He's now defending the manufacturers of the withdrawn diet-drug combination fen/phen from class-action suits.

68. ELAINE CHARLSON BREDEHOFT

Charlson Bredehoft

ELAINE BREDEHOFT AVERAGES SOME 100 calls a week. No wonder. She is consistently one of Virginia's most effective lawyers at winning judgments in employment-discrimination suits, be they related to sex, disability, or age. She won a $1.1-million judgment against a Sterling company for wrongfully firing its chief operating officer after he agreed to cooperate with a Securities and Exchange Com-mission investigation. She won $3.1 million for former Leesburg police chief Keith Stiles, who was fired after he accused the town manager of improperly using a city credit card.

69. EDWARD WEIDENFELD

Margolius, Mallios, Davis, Rider & Tomar

THERE IS LITTLE ABOUT BUSINESS AND ESTATE planning, asset protection, and the tax benefits of philanthropy that Ed Weidenfeld--the best pure estate lawyer in Washington--doesn't know. Weidenfeld once chaired Lawyers for Reagan, and after the Californian's election he became chief counsel to the Reagan campaign. For years he was best known as a GOP lobbyist and fixer. He still occasionally finds his way into the gossip columns, but Weidenfeld--who has written two books on tax and estate planning--now focuses most of his efforts on helping his wealthy clients figure out what to do with their money.

70. J. FREDERICK SINCLAIR

J. Frederick Sinclair

A VETERAN OF THE NORTHERN VIRGINIA BAR, Sinclair is as solid and ethical as they come. He can handle any white-collar case and is particularly adept at settling tax problems with the IRS. Sinclair was the attorney for Jonathan Weinstein, a pediatrician the FBI implicated in an Internet child-pornography ring. Sinclair helped negotiate his client's cooperation in the case and convinced a federal judge to impose the statutory sentence. Weinstein wound up serving a year in a medical facility in Massachusetts. When Sinclair, who tries cases all over Virginia, is not in court, he's often in a shell. No, he's not shy--he rows on the Potomac three mornings a week.

71. MICHAEL DURNEY

Law Offices of Michael C. Durney

MIKE DURNEY, ONE OF THE BEST TAX LAW-yers in Washington, thinks of himself as a firefighter. "I try to find out where the problem is, and then we go attack it," he says. Before beginning private practice, Durney was deputy assistant attorney general for the tax division at the Department of Justice, and he has written one of the best-known manuals on criminal tax procedure. The Bethesda resident is easy to reach and easy to talk to. His approach to solving problems is sensible: He first finds out what you have done, then develops a strategy to get you out of it. Whether the investigation was triggered at Justice or the IRS, he knows the players.

72. ADAM HOFFINGER

Piper Marbury Rudnick & Wolfe

THIS 45-YEAR-OLD NEW YORKER HAS MOVED quickly to the top ranks of Washington's criminal lawyers. A former prosecutor in the Southern District of New York who served under Rudy Giuliani, Hoffinger decided in 1990 that he would rather live in Washington than in New York. Here he was hired by another mentor, Earl Silbert, at their former firm, Schwalb, Donnenfeld, Bray & Silbert. Hoffinger, a resident of Great Falls who has watched The Godfather dozens of times, played the key role in the ultimate exoneration of Lon Horiuchi, the FBI agent involved in the Ruby Ridge shooting, and more recently fought off criminal charges against Adam Crain, the campaign-finance director for embattled Senator Robert Torricelli of New Jersey.

73. ROBERT LIOTTA

Liotta, Dranitzke & Engel

ROBERT LIOTTA OCCUPIES A UNIQUE NICHE IN the practice of law in Northwest DC. In an era of increasing specialization, he's like the family doctor who still makes house calls. He does the kind of legal work people who are not in a great deal of trouble need. Liotta can steer clients through landlord-tenant disputes, real-estate problems, wills, estate work, and prenuptial agreements. But he still handles big, complicated cases, as when he represented a group of women suing the manufacturers of the Dalkon Shield birth-control device. His rates run a little below those of the big guys downtown, and some say he's overextended as a result. But like the old apothecary, his type of law practice is a vanishing treasure.

74. NINA GINSBERG

DiMuro, Ginsberg & Mook

A NEW YORK NATIVE WITH EXPERTISE IN DRUG offenses, Ginsberg has built a Virginia practice centered on defending alleged drug dealers, illegal aliens, and spies like Brian Regan, a retired Air Force master sergeant accused of selling secrets. Her crafty courtroom manner was on display in a Fairfax County child-molestation case when she elected not to strike a retired FBI agent from the jury panel. Many in the courtroom thought she had lost her case right there. Ginsberg correctly predicted, however, that the agent "would understand the weakness in the government's case," and her client was acquitted. Ginsberg is also Virginia's leading expert on evaluating the consequences of criminal convictions for non-US citizens.

75. LISA KEMLER

Zwerling & Kemler

ONE OF THE BEST CRIMINAL-DEFENSE attorneys in Virginia, Kemler and her partner, John Zwerling, are worth calling if you or someone in your family is arrested for anything from reckless driving to murder. Some say Kemler's real specialty is the insanity defense. When manicurist Lorena Bobbitt was charged with cutting off her husband's penis, it was Kemler who helped develop the temporary-insanity plea that led to her freedom. *

INTIMIDATORS. The toughest lawyers in town are John Dowd, Bob Bennett, and Tom Green, whose friends even call him "a mean SOB."
NUMBER ONE. Michele Roberts--the best pure trial lawyer around--has moved uptown, where she's now defending tonier clients.
NOT A POTTED PLANT. By the time clients get to legendary litigator Brendan Sullivan, they are, in his words, "pretty far up the creek." Even so, few end up doing time in jail.
DON'T LEAVE HOME WITHOUT THEM. Foreign nationals--from opera divas to dishwashers--often turn to Nina Ginsberg, Elizabeth Stern, or Michael Maggio.
DEFENSE AND OFFENSE. Michael Hausfeld (right) files big class-action lawsuits for billions of dollars. Michael Jones is the lawyer companies hire to oppose such suits.
THE GURU. Former US Attorney Earl Silbert has been a mentor to many top criminal lawyers, but he still takes tough cases himself.
ALL IN THE FAMILY. The top divorce lawyers are Marna Tucker, her law-school classmate Peter Sherman, and his partner Sandy Ain.
WHEN THE IRS CALLS--and the stakes are large--the people to call are Michael Durney, John Bray, and Cono Namorato. All used to work for the other side.

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